Reviewer Spotlight: Dr. Isabella Farhy-Tselnicker
The quality of eNeuro depends on the effort that is generously contributed by our reviewers, who lend their expertise and time helping to ensure we publish great science. This Reviewer Recognition series introduces the research of selected reviewers, as well as their strategies for approaching peer review of a paper. Dr. Isabella Farhy-Tselnicker is currently working in the Biology Department at Texas A&M University focused on exploring the roles of astrocytes, a type of non-neuronal cells.
"I always approach a review with a positive attitude. I think that as a reviewer, my role is to help the authors improve the manuscript by clarifying points that would help strengthen their conclusions. [...] My suggestion for new reviewers is to approach the manuscript first as an interested reader, not as a critic."
Isabella Farhy-Tselnicker, PhD, Texas A&M University
What research questions are you currently working on?
The immense complexity of the brain, such as how communication between neurons at synapses enables us to think and function, holds great fascination to both experts and lay people. Deficits in synaptic function are a prominent feature in multiple disorders, including autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout my scientific career, I have been dedicated to unraveling these complexities, one “tangle” at a time. My recently established lab in the Biology Department at Texas A&M University focuses on exploring the roles of astrocytes, a type of non-neuronal cells. Astrocytes have recently emerged as crucial regulators of synapses, becoming a major focus of both fundamental and translational studies. During my postdoctoral work, we uncovered that expression of synapse-modulating genes in astrocytes is regulated by neuronal and astrocyte activity. Perturbing either neuronal or astrocyte activity using genetic mouse models, altered astrocytic gene expression, as well as synaptic protein expression in the developing mouse visual cortex. My lab’s current projects explore the multiple facets of astrocyte-neurons interactions that underlie synapse development and function in the healthy brain. We dissect the mechanistic link between astrocytic calcium activity and synapse development and maturation. By identifying the central players in these interactions, we hope to find novel druggable targets to correct synaptic dysfunctions underlying debilitating neurological disorders.
What do you do when not in the lab?
When not in the lab, I spend time with my family. We enjoy traveling, hiking and biking in nature, visiting new cities and art museums, or just spending the day at home watching fun TV (been doing that a lot since the pandemic started). I am also an avid Sci Fi books fan, and will read pretty much anything with a spaceship in it.
What advice would you share with new reviewers?
I began reviewing manuscripts as a trainee, together, with my PhD and postdoc mentors. Learning from their experience by reading their comments and discussion has had a major impact on my development as an independent reviewer. Moreover, participating and presenting papers at journal clubs, as well as publishing my own manuscripts (thus experiencing the review process from the author side), have also greatly influenced my reviewer style. I always approach a review with a positive attitude. I think that as a reviewer, my role is to help the authors improve the manuscript by clarifying points that would help strengthen their conclusions. I strive to provide the authors with positive constructive criticism, and give clear recommendations for addressing my comments (whether with experiments or text editing). My suggestion for new reviewers is to approach the manuscript first as an interested reader, not as a critic. Note to yourself the questions that come up as you are reading it, and think about which points in the data presented could use further clarifications to better understand authors findings or conclusions. Then use those questions and notes as basis for your review. For trainees, I highly recommend to partake in manuscript review with your mentors, as well as participate in mentor programs, such as the SfN's Reviewer Mentor Program, to further develop your reviewer skills. The most important advice I can give new reviewers is: keep reading scientific literature! This is the best way to learn how to evaluate manuscripts as reviewer.
What is your experience as a reviewer with eNeuro's consultation review process?
My experience with eNeuro’s consultation review process has been very positive. It is by far my favorite format for peer review, and I wish it was more common across the different journals. For each paper I reviewed, being able to discuss it with other reviewers really helped to shape a more cohesive response to the authors. This unified reviewer response emphasized the critical points authors should address, while still giving individual reviewers an opportunity to voice their concerns or comments about the manuscript, which were provided to the authors. Through these discussions I was able to learn from the other reviewers and editors, got exposed to different points of view and reviewer thought processes, which helped me to better my skills and increase my confidence as a reviewer. I think this process truly improves the experience of both reviewers and authors.
Lab website: https://ifarhy.wixsite.com/isabellafarhylab
eNeuro offers authors the choice to receive double-blind review. Additionally, the Reviewing Editor and two reviewers will consult to reach a consensus on the decision and to draft a synthesis of the reviewers' comments explaining the decision. These review syntheses are published alongside each accepted paper. Learn more about eNeuro's Review Process.